Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yellow Balloons and Paper Airplanes

I didn't attend former President Noh Mu Hyun's funeral yesterday; it was already underway when I got moving late in the morning. Hankyoreh (the source of the photo above) says half a million people gathered at Seoul Plaza for the ceremony there. (There were memorials around the country, too.) When I went out, I saw televisions tuned to the funeral coverage in most little shops and restaurants, with people watching in each one. A lot of people reportedly took the day off to attend; those who couldn't, like small business owners, just watched at work. In the Express Bus Terminal I sat for a while with people awaiting their buses, watching the coverage on a TV there. On the subway I saw some of the yellow cardboard sun visors discarded. Yellow was Noh's campaign color when he ran for president, and it was all over the place at the funeral: yellow balloons, yellow placards with Noh's face printed on them, yellow paper airplanes thrown at the funeral cars. At a friend's house for dinner, we watched TV news; I'm hoping some of this footage will turn up online so I can post it here.

It's probably impossible to separate politics from the mourning. Former President Kim Dae-jung, who started Noh's political career, denounced the Lee administration for hounding Noh, saying that under such pressure he would have made the same decision Noh made. When President Lee approached the altar with a chrysanthemum, members of the crowd yelled at him, and the master of ceremonies had to call for calm. I could almost sympathize with Lee, despite his efforts to suppress unofficial mourning and contain the damage done by Noh's suicide to his regime; but if he and other members of his party hadn't put in an appearance at the funeral they'd have been attacked for that too. Still, he bears a lot of responsibility for his situation, and in keeping with the conservative dogma that people need to take responsibility, I can only almost sympathize with him.

(photos above from the Korea Herald)